Why hire an outside planning facilitator?

For many school teams, the benefits are immeasurable.
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Let’s face it. These are not normal times, and there’s no such thing as “business as usual.”

As the pandemic stretches into its third school year, school teams are entering into the planning process for 2022-2023 with both weariness and continued uncertainty. Perhaps the biggest question of all is, “Where do we go from here?” If your school team has never utilized an outside facilitator for strategic planning before, this may be the year to consider this type of support.

"It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near one."
- J.R.R. Tolkien

But what are the benefits of handing over the planning reins? And what will your school team gain from the experience? Here are five of the biggest benefits to outsourcing this important task:

  1. You can’t be objective if you are in the trenches. Perhaps the number one reason to seek an outside facilitator is to gain objectivity. Your school team has, indeed, been in the trenches. As a result, your team may be defensive about the priorities and resulting practices that have evolved over the past several years. An impartial facilitator brings fresh, focused enthusiasm to the planning process that is rooted in data. This perspective ensures that the resulting plan is tied to outcomes, not emotions.

  2. Your school leader gets to be part of the process. Often, strategic planning and/or improvement planning at the school level is led by the school leader. By acting as facilitator, the school leader cannot actively participate as an objective contributor to the process. Or worse, the school leader may influence others to silently agree, simply by the authority of his/her role. An outside facilitator allows the school leader to be part of the planning team, and evens the playing field for more equitable participation across the group.

  3. The process gains elevated importance and discipline. Tried and true weight loss programs attribute much of their success to two principles: 1) if people step on the scale once a week, they are more likely to succeed, and 2) if they are held accountable for stepping on the scale (typically monetarily), they are more likely to do so. Similarly, the simple act of investing in the planning process elevates its priority status for everyone involved. And, as it is the facilitator’s role to manage the process, accountability for participation is built in. Thus, having an outside facilitator can not only ensure that your planning process happens as scheduled, but it can also ensure that participants approach planning with the focus and commitment it requires.

  4. There are no elephants in the room. Many organizations operate with underlying issues. And sometimes, staff members are collectively hesitant to discuss certain policies or practices, due to their historical sensitivity. An outside facilitator can lead these “sticky conversations” in a professional and controlled manner. Perhaps even more importantly, an outside facilitator can ask the tough questions that may invoke a fear of criticism among the organization’s internal staff.

  5. Your world gets a little bigger. An experienced and qualified outside facilitator brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the process. Ideally, not only has she led strategic planning with many other school teams, but she has also served as a school leader, administrator, or teacher. This type of facilitator gains the trust of participants, and they feel both understood and respected as planning unfolds. Perhaps more importantly, a qualified facilitator enhances the process by sharing best practices utilized by other schools to lend additional insight to the developing plan. Your team gets exposed to concepts they may not have considered, and are pushed to think differently as strategies are selected.

Simply put, it is the facilitator’s role to structure the process, provide accountability for meeting objectives, lead engaging and highly productive discussion, capture input, and direct the development of a cohesive and data-aligned improvement plan. Outsourcing planning frees school leadership from all of those time-consuming tasks.

Find Out More. If you’d like to learn more about SchoolWorks facilitated planning supports, reach out to us. We structure our planning engagements to meet your specific needs. As always, we’re here to help.


Plan your work, and work your plan!

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